[00:00:00] Hi everyone, this is your town manager, Alex Dorpy. I'm recording our September update from Austin, Texas, at the annual international city county management association conference. I've been really enjoying meeting and learning and mingling with nearly 60 other local managers and government professionals from across the world. And I'm actually going to have a special episode just for an update from the conference. But boy, am I looking forward to coming home to fall in New England. So, here are some of the things that we've been working on in September in town.
[00:00:36] We'll have updates from our September 11 and September 18 select board meetings where we issued a proclamation thanking a Public Works employee for 20 years of service with the Public Works Department. So. Thank you, Roger. We lowered the speed limit on Lime Road. We gave a quick update on the fiscal year 24 25 budget timeline and made some final appointments to the new Capital Improvement Program Committee. We discussed some traffic safety updates. We talked about the need to update some of the organizational documents and materials for some of our boards and committees. We recapped the Great Allen Street Block Party and talked a little bit about the future plans for Allen Street. We discussed some space problems inside of Town Hall and some ideas that we're exploring moving forward. And we did a bunch of other business, including approving various minutes, accepting some donations, making some appointments, and doing some grant paperwork. We also covered my administrative update for the month and that included updates on Allen Street and some other upcoming events, some human resources, hiring and retention and recruitment study updates, some parking updates, discussion on Mink Brook Community workforce, housing, and the meeting that is now set for October 16 where folks can learn more. We gave some updates on Downtown Hanover and covered a couple other topics. So, got a lot of stuff going on in September and we've got a really busy couple months coming up, so let's jump right into it.
[00:02:20] So, a couple of the things that we covered from our select board meetings in September, you have probably heard by now, but we have lowered the speed limit on Lime Road between the two roundabouts. This is bringing it down to 25, bringing the school zone speed limit down to 15 mph. This helps bring us more in line with our vision zero goals. And this was one of the recommendations that came out from our staff meeting that we have put in place this year to discuss traffic safety complaints, concerns and issues.
[00:02:59] Some folks were at the meeting who mostly expressed some favorability towards lowering that speed limit, and that will be over the next month or two as we get the signs ordered. And that also helped us realize that we have some outdated signs in other parts of town. We will be announcing that so it's clear and everybody knows that the speed limit is being moved down, that 5 mph.
[00:03:25] We also gave an update on the fiscal year 24 25 budget timeline.
[00:03:33] And so there is a memo that I wrote where you can find a more detailed timeline going forward. I'll run through it really quickly right now. And so basically, September was sort of slated as a bit of an organizational month.
[00:03:49] We were intending to have the first meeting of our Capital Improvement Program Committee, though that will be probably in the next couple of weeks instead. And on the Capital Improvement Program Committee, we also finalized the membership for that. So I'll read that out here as well. And so this new committee, which is a state law requirement, either the Planning Board has to be involved in creating the Town's Capital Improvement Plan, which in Hanover they have not been, or we have to create a committee to do that, which includes a Planning Board Representative, which we did not have previously. So that is a new process for this year and it's going to help us build out a more thorough capital plan that is going to make a really big difference. Understanding some of our future commitments and the revenue that we need to make sure that the costs that we know are coming down the line in the future are not borne just by raising taxes. That isn't a sustainable way to finance all of these projects in the future. And so we'll be talking about that in more detail through the budget process this year. And this committee with multiple stakeholders will really help in that regard. So on this committee is myself, Ellen Bullion, who's our Finance and Administrative Services Director. Pete Kobaki, the Public Works Director.
[00:05:11] Carrie Callahan, select Board Representative. Jenny Chamberlain, select Board Representative. John Dolan, Finance Committee representative. Kim Hartman from the Hanover School District, brian Edwards from the Hanover Planning Board and Nico Mccry, the Public at Large representative and a Dartmouth student who we're happy to have on the committee as well. And so that's a really great group of people that will be coming together to discuss capital projects.
[00:05:41] We had our initial meeting with our collective bargaining units and then October is sort of setting goals and priorities. And so this is also a new process that we're beginning this year. The Select Board is participating in a goal setting workshop in a couple weeks in October, and they will be reviewing all of the public feedback that was collected through the Master Plan Advisory Committee process and using that public feedback to understand some of the public's priorities and concerns.
[00:06:14] We decided to take advantage of the fact that we have all of that pretty recent data because we just went through that process. Now we won't have that every year. So in future years we may consider different ways to solicit public feedback and feedback from stakeholders in the community at the beginning of the budget process. And so that ensures that we are starting with the goals of the community and those goals then move to the select board that will discuss and prioritize those. Those will get discussed at a select board meeting and then come back and that will basically inform how we begin the budget process. And so this is really important to do that. We don't just work off of the budget from the prior year and take all of our assumptions and keep rolling them over from year to year, but that every year we're at least checking in, understanding where we're going. Making sure our goals in the next year are aligned with our longer term goals and then making sure our budget requests for the upcoming year are in line with what our priorities actually are. So that's all new for this year and I'm sure we're going to work out some kinks as we go, but excited to be doing that. And then in October we're also going to start and really by early November recapping our retention recruitment study and building that into our budget process. Through November, December and January, there'll be a lot of work on the capital and operating side of the budget. And then similar to last year, we'll be providing a draft budget to the Finance Committee, the Select Board and the public, likely in late February, working on revisions of that draft budget to bring a final budget by late March and then preparing and distributing everything that we need for town meeting after that. So there's a more detailed timeline that is available and you can find a link to that in the show notes. We also discussed a few other traffic safety updates but most of that was related to the Lime Road speed limit. And then in October I will have a report out from our traffic safety meeting, our third quarter traffic safety meeting that staff held again. So then we moved into a couple other discussion items. This included needing to update some of the organizational materials for some of our boards and committees. So some are a little more organized than others, but just looking at all of the bylaws trying to get them as consistent and accurate and updated as possible, making sure we know the terms of all of the members that have been appointed, different boards and committees and just basically getting all of that a little more organized. We will have someone starting in the new position that we created in the Clerk's office, the new Senior Assistant Clerk, Deputy Director of Administrative Services. That is one of many projects that person will be jumping right into and so that person will be starting in October and that's going to be one of the first projects that they work on.
[00:09:23] Next is we talked about the Allen Street block party which if you weren't able to make it, was just wonderful. We closed down Allen Street the last weekend in August and we had music and Still North and Sawtooth had outdoor seating. We had a magician, we had story times.
[00:09:42] It was just a great weekend of events. The rain mostly held off and there were a couple of pictures that I included in my report.
[00:09:50] There were various points throughout the weekend where we had more than 100 people on Allen Street hanging out and participating. So we talked a little bit about the direction that we're moving in with Allen Street, which is finding ways to do more things like that and basically what can be the value to the community of Allen Street without it needing to be only for cars.
[00:10:13] And so we're going to be looking at that a little more closely. We have another event at the end of October which you should definitely put on your calendars, which is a Halloween event. We've got a trick or treat on the Friday before Halloween and a costume party on Saturday before Halloween. And then of course, we will have our home for the holidays in December again. And we will be talking next year about the future of Allen Street and if we want to find ways to, on a more permanent basis, potentially close the street, bring that issue to town meeting to discuss further. So we had that discussion with the select board and making sure that all parties are on the same page, that those are the kinds of things that we are looking at doing. We've gotten a lot of feedback that people appreciate and really want to see more publicly available space in the downtown. And this is one of the ways that we are working on that.
[00:11:13] We also discussed some space problems inside of Town Hall. We are bringing in a few new employees, one of which we just actually, two of which we don't have any desk space for.
[00:11:29] We only have one meeting room in the building, which on a regular basis multiple times a week requires kicking people out of other meetings or sometimes staff eat lunch in that meeting room and they're not able to do so because a meeting is being held there.
[00:11:48] It really has been a problem for us. And so we're looking at a couple different options. And one of the options is potentially moving the board meetings that happen in the boardroom in Town Hall somewhere else. And one of those options is at the Howe Library where we've been working with them on just understanding schedules, logistics, operations, making sure that there aren't any major red flags there.
[00:12:14] And so we wanted to discuss that with the full select board and make sure that everybody was on board.
[00:12:21] That's an unintentional pun with moving forward with this. And that would create new office space, multiple new meeting rooms in Town Hall that would make a huge difference in our daily operations. And so we're looking at a couple of different options there, but wanted to discuss that with everybody. And again, just make sure everybody's on the same page. Moving forward, I mentioned we did some business and I just want to make sure to thank folks that donated to the town. And so that was snacks. Bar dunks Sports Grill co op food stores make architects and mascoma bank. And so thank you all for your donations supporting various programs in the town. We also made some appointments. This includes Sloan Mayor Jack Wilson and Randall Mudge to the Building Code Advisory committee. Those are all reappointments. We appointed our acting fire chief, Mike Gilbert, as the acting Emergency Management director.
[00:13:16] And we appointed myself, our public Works director, police chief and dispatch coordinator as Deputy Emergency Management directors. And we're going to be working on doing a little bit more with all of that in the coming months. We executed some grant paperwork or authorized me to do so to move forward the multi use path for Reservoir, Road and Wheelock.
[00:13:38] So, moving on to my administrative report. So we talked a little bit more about Allen Street and just wanted to thank Hanover Parks and Rec for organizing that new event this year. That was really great. And give a special shout out to Liz Burdette and Kat. If you'd like to hear a little more from Liz and Kat about what working at Parks and Rec is like, go a few episodes back in the podcast and have a really great conversation with the two of them. And again, we've got our new event at the end of October as well, which we're really excited about, that will be on Allen Street. We also went into some updates about human resources and hiring and staffing. And so if you're listening to these or watching our meetings, you will see that this is a constant in our report and some of that is because we are doing our retention and recruitment study. But some of that is hiring and staffing is one of the most kind of critical topics right now in town. And for local governments across the country, hiring is really challenging, especially in our area because of the lack of any available or affordable housing or childcare services.
[00:14:55] And so we're doing a lot of work to not only try to retain the folks that we have, but also make it easier for us to recruit people as more and more begin to retire. We had significant turnover in our staff in the last couple of years and we need to do more to prepare for the change in the labor market that is going to impact how the town is staffed. So we're in the final stages of our retention and recruitment study and I'll save a longer update for that for next month when we have had the study completed. And we're going to be beginning working on some proposals that will get incorporated into the budget this year.
[00:15:32] And that covers a very wide range of how people work for the town.
[00:15:37] We also talked about our search for a new fire chief. So that is now publicly available and we have that job open. We expect filling the position will probably take about three to five months in total. We'll be circulating that pretty widely. And I would really encourage you to check out the posting if you're kind of curious what direction we're going in with how we hire and staff the town government. One of the things that we did in this recruitment posting is a really cool project, and we'll give a thanks to Hanover Police Sergeant Matt Upord. And so Matt has been a police officer for over 20 years, and over the last few years has discovered a passion for film, made a really wonderful profile of one or two of the officers at the police department just for fun. And when we asked Matt if he would help out making a recruitment video for the fire chief search, he was more than happy to do so.
[00:16:51] And you can find that video I will link directly to the YouTube video. It included interviews with a number of our staff at the fire department and just sort of setting up what we do here and what we're looking for a little bit for folks that might be interested in learning more about Hanover and applying for that job. It was a really great project, though, because it brought some of our police officers and firefighters closer together, which is always great to do. And more broadly than that, just spotlighting. We have so many wonderful employees who not only have great technical skills in their jobs, but also have all sorts of interesting things they do outside of their work. And we want to spotlight some of that and when possible, kind of bring that into work. So that was really fun to see. And again, I'll include a link to that in the show. Notes we also gave an update on the Mink Brook Community Workforce housing project.
[00:17:51] And so we are continuing to have discussion of the preliminary terms that the Select Board will set per town meeting to convey the property to Twin Pines. Those conversations currently are happening in non public. They are part of the contract negotiation and advice from our attorney with Twin Pines. However, we did want to provide the public for an opportunity for a couple of things. There is a meeting on October 16 at 07:00 p.m., a Select Board meeting, and if you are interested in learning more about the project or providing some feedback, you should definitely attend that meeting. On that meeting on October 16, we will be providing a little bit of an overview and history of the project, discussing workforce housing. We will also be discussing the summary for the Select Board of the Forest Management Plan for Minkbrook Community Forest that the Conservation Commission created a few years ago through a very thorough and intensive process. The plan itself is north of 400 pages, so we thought a summary might be appropriate for folks that just want to see a little bit about how we're going to make sure that we conserve properly this really key ecosystem in our community and ensure that the housing does not negatively impact that. The other thing that will be available on the October 16 meeting is an opportunity for the public to provide feedback about what priorities you think the select board should be considering when setting those terms. Unfortunately, because of the legal nature of the conversations with Twin Pines, we can't get into a back and forth about those terms. But we did want to at least provide the opportunity at this stage for members of the public to come out and say, here's what we're concerned about with this project, and we can take all of that back, work with our attorney, and make sure that we incorporate those priorities as best we can in the terms going forward. So again, if you are interested in any of that about the Minkbrook Community Workforce housing project, please come to the meeting on October 16.
[00:20:03] We talked about a couple other Downtown Hanover updates beyond Allen Street, and that includes a new collaboration with Dartmouth College. So we had our first scavenger hunt on September 10. This is where I believe a couple dozen downtown businesses were made part of the orientation activities for new students. This was an idea that came up last year, actually, when we began conversations with downtown property owners and merchants about ways we could help better support the downtown, and the college has been a great participant in those conversations. This was one of the low hanging fruit ideas that came out from that how do we get students right in the downtown as soon as they get to campus? So that was a really great first step going in that direction.
[00:20:55] We're also continuing to improve public spaces. We did add a couple new chairs and tables in front of Town Hall and want to thank John Pepper and Beloco for donating some of those. If you have any feedback about what we could be doing out there, we have some plans that we're working on, but if you have any ideas, you want different types of seating or anything like that, let us know, because we are in the process of working out those plans currently, and we'll have a whole bunch of new stuff for next year.
[00:21:23] Other housing related updates. We are making some final tweaks to the registration portal for Rentals and Hanover, and we expect to have that live for property owners within a couple weeks. We're also currently interviewing candidates for the rental housing inspector position and then I also included just a snippet. If you read Daybreak, you probably have seen this already, but there was a great couple articles that pointed to a study about how public opinion in New Hampshire has drastically shifted in the last few years related to support for zoning changes that enable increasing the availability and affordability of housing in New Hampshire. And so the one stat that I included in my report, because I just think it's so significant, it's really worth highlighting. And so these are New Hampshire residents and the question was New Hampshire towns and cities should change their zoning sorry, should change their planning and zoning regulations in order to allow more housing to be built in 2020.
[00:22:30] Just over 20% of people agreed with that in 2023, 60%.
[00:22:38] Huge change.
[00:22:41] Is this the death of NIMBYism? We're not sure, but it is a huge step in the right direction. And I think folks in our community have been proactive about this in the last couple of years, realizing that we have a really serious need that is interrupting the economy and the culture of our region if we don't get a handle on it. A couple of updates related to parking. So this is something we're going to be coming back to in our October meetings. But basically what we are looking at doing is we've restarted some meetings. We used to have a Parking Transportation Board, we no longer do, but we have reactivated some meetings with our parking staff. This is largely coming from feedback from some downtown merchants of just finding ways to make parking in Hanover easier and more accessible. And our parking staff has been totally wonderful about proposing ideas and thinking of ways that we can do more there. And so one of the ideas that we started to move forward with was making the parking garage free on Saturdays, which actually might save us money because we do currently have budgeted a position to staff that, though we have had trouble filling it, but that money is in the budget for that. And instead of staffing it just making Saturdays and Sundays free in the parking garage.
[00:24:04] And we're also looking at changing the hours in some of the lots. We had some suggestions about ways to do that, but also recognize that we need to do a little bit of a broader study probably next year at making sure, especially as we discuss Main Street reconstruction, Allen Street, other things like that, just making sure that we have a good handle on that. We have the number of parking spaces available in Hanover that we really need and that the hours are matched to what the need are. Looking at permits in different lots and garages, looking at the on street meter parking, looking at the lots. And so we just have a little bit more work to do about that next year, but wanted to make a few small changes going forward to just make it a little bit easier for folks to visit the downtown. A couple other updates is the Hanover Police Department's annual Childhood Cancer Awareness Month campaign. So that was in the month of September. We talked a little bit about that and on September 30, just recently, hanover police hosted the Touch a Truck event, and that was at the Race School. Hanover employees will also be participating in the September blood drive through Dartmouth Health. And so Hanover Police, since 2021, has been really proactive about this. You can learn a little bit more about that on our website.
[00:25:29] And thanks to Hanover Police for working on that. Hey everyone, and thanks for checking out this special Spotlight episode of Hanover Happenings. If you'd like to find all of the episodes of our Hanover Happenings podcast and prior updates, you can do [email protected]
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